Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A pothole on the information superhighway

Life as you know it may be coming to an end, a result of the fallout from a new employment website that's certain to be copycatted. Tablesetter.com intends to do for waiters and waitresses what the internet has already done for car shoppers: Negate the come-ons and promises by revealing what kind of deals they can really expect from various places in the market, based on the real-life experiences of those who've preceded them.

The site compiles what servers say they've made in salary and tips at restaurants in their cities, with the information arrayed by experience level. Someone looking for a waitstaff job in New York will learn that rookie servers reported pocketing $845 a week at Spice Market, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Asian restaurant in the Meatpacking District, while newcomers said they pulled down more than $1,000 a week at not-so-far-away Perry Street.

The information will undoubtedly steer job hunters to one place versus another, and that may cost you some applicants. But even worse is the chance that one of your veteran servers may learn he or she could make a bundle more by just popping down to that place a few blocks over. Veteran waiters and waitresses said they made $876 per seven-day cycle at the venerable Keane's Steakhouse. Their counterparts at Angelo & Maxie's, a steakhouse within walking distance, collected $951 in the same timeframe, or about $4,000 more per year.

The underlying concept is the same as the notion behind any number of car-buying websites, where shoppers can learn what earlier seekers of the same models ended up actually paying, or what rates are being offered by dealerships across the nation, as posted by the retailers themselves.

Tablesetter.com offers the info for bartenders as well as servers. Job holders in eight cities are invited to reveal what they made in those various locations, though the listing for New York places is by far the most robust.

If the site catches on and competitors follow its lead, the industry can expect to see the same sort of empowerment that is enjoyed by online shoppers for any number of goods or services, from insurance to mortgages. And that's not likely to be a good development for restaurants trying to keep a full employment roster.

1 comment:

  1. Jeffrey GreenbergJuly 29, 2007 8:05 PM

    Hypothetically, let’s imagine you woke up this morning as an unemployed waiter or bartender. At your last job you were taking home an average of $800 a week- a figure that suited the current lifestyle you lead. You’ve begun to ask your industry friends if they have heard of any openings “anywhere” so that you can simply cover the rent next month. You spend your afternoons aimlessly wandering your neighborhood, hoping to see a help wanted sign or boldly walking into a restaurant to request a resume to fill out.

    “I’m sorry, we’re not currently hiring at the moment, says the pretty hostess, but if you fill it out we will keep it on file.”

    For those of you who are not in the industry, “on file” is Latin for, in the garbage.

    After a day hitting the streets, you go online to check the so-called leaders in restaurant job postings. As you click on the title “Waiter Needed,” job seekers tend to view three types of help wanted ads…

    The Ad with no information:
    “East Side Italian Restaurant seeks full-time waiter. 2-years New York City experience necessary. Send fax to:”

    The Sexual Harassment Ad:
    “Looking for female bartender. Only females apply. Attach picture. Must be hot!”

    The Solid Ad:
    “Restaurant XYZ is looking for a part time or full time server for a busy Latin & South American Restaurant located at 555 Hudson near the South Street Sea Port. Two years experience preferred, but not necessary. Looking for positive, energetic, fun individuals to have a good time and make some money. Please email your resume with photo to…

    Unfortunately, the solid ad is few and far between (and still tells you very little about the job). Waiters and bartenders are resigned to submitting blind emails to establishments without any idea of where they are actually applying. In what other profession does an individual apply to a business without knowing where the business is located, let alone, not having a clue of how much they can roughly earn? Furthermore, said restaurant may call you back for an interview. If the location is suitable for you travel wise, you take an afternoon to interview at the restaurant.

    At this time, the restaurant begins to paint their picture of the inner working of the establishment. In all my interviews, I have never heard a manager explain that their food, staff, management, protocol, operations, and fairness are less than impressive (not that they should). A thoroughly positive picture is created with the idea that candidate should be honored if he is chosen as the newly hired employee. Of course, any question a waiter might ask along the lines of, “how much will I make a week,” or “how many shifts will I get when I start?” is deemed presumptuous and a challenge to the delicate balance of managerial/waiter power. If a manager believes you are a solid candidate, he may throw some bait out to you by providing a couple numbers regarding how much you can make if you are hired. I have found the numbers to most always be inflated by at least 20%.
    Eventually, you get hired, you go through their training (usually a week to two weeks) depending on how good the restaurant is and then you are on the floor. It is at this point that you can finally begin to understand the TRUE picture of your new job. Sometimes it works out great, sometimes it gets the job done, and sometimes you are out the door cursing your life.

    So why not create a system to cut the bullshit and make EVERYONE’S life so much easier? Well, that’s what I did.

    I created Tablesetter.com not just as a way to provide every employee with the knowledge they need to make the right decision on where to work, but to also cut the operating costs and reduce the turnover rates that management has faced for years (82% turnover per year for fine dining, 130%+ for casual).

    It is in the best interest of neither party to waste time and money training an individual for them to only quit three weeks later. That simply means, more ads, more interviews, more training, and less money for everyone. Why would management want to deal with that anymore?

    The owner and management at Restaurant XYZ may be the greatest people in the world, but if I need to make $800 a week, and I can only realistically make $600 a week, it won’t work. Furthermore, an individual might be willing to work at a restaurant that has a reputation for hard-nosed and abusive management if the price is right. The price is different for everyone. Some people might want an intense atmosphere; others are looking for full-time, while health insurance and benefits might be a necessity for someone else. But ultimately, people want to know their options and treated with respect.

    Tablesetter.com allows EVERY owner to have their own private human resource account where they can receive standardized, photo-optional resumes. Owners can also post unlimited help wanted ads for all our members to see (the ads will have the name, location, position, salary, and any comments). Additionally, owners can voice their expectations in writing so that any person applying can see what the restaurant is asking for. Any resume submitted to a restaurant is time dated and sits in their file until either party removes it. Management can also sort through all the resumes in seconds by availability, experience, position, and more. So if you need someone for Tuesday and Thursday nights, there is no point in calling down 5 individuals for interviews who can’t work those shifts. Time = money.

    I was aware when I started my company that the initial reaction from the managerial establishment would be cautious. However, it’s simply not in the interest of me or my company to do anything but run a simple and efficient employment network for both parties. When new technology and/or information are introduced to an established industry, there tend to be four phases. Phase 1 is to ignore, Phase 2 is to be defensive, Phase 3 is to accept, and Phase 4 is to embrace.

    With heavyweight and respected NYC restaurants such as Balthazar, The Red Cat, and Devi, signed up for service and accepting resumes, Tablesetter.com is moving into the world of acceptance and heading quickly towards being embraced by both parties.

    Thanks for your interest and input.

    Sincerely,

    Jeffrey Greenberg
    CEO/ Tablesetter.com
    thetablesetter@gmail.com

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